Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Cactus, Rocks and a Jeep Day

February 13-14, 2017
Tucson, Arizona

Last year when we were in the area we visited Saquaro National Park - West. The only national park divided in two sections, this time we head out to the East park.

In the 1920's grazing threatened the giant Saquaros found in only a small region of the United States. Efforts to save these beautiful forests, led by Homer Shantz, resulted in President Hoover designating this area of the Rincon Mountains as a National Monument in 1933. President Kennedy added the Tucson Mountains in 1961, and in 1977 Congress designated over 71K acres as wilderness. The current two sections were established as the Saquaro National Park in 1997.

This area is lovely, but there are a lot fewer saquaros compared to what we've seen. There is however, a lovely variety of chollas, barrel, ocotillo and prickly pear cactus, along with Greasewood bushes and Palo Verde trees. Although we hear birds throughout the park, a single rabbit sighting is our only critter.

Variations in green.

Chain Cholla

Purple Staghorn Cholla, wispy Palo Verde, majestic Saquaro, spiky Prickly Pear

The golden crown of a Fishhook Barrel

This Jack Rabbit is huge!
The scenic loop is an eight mile, one-way road that climbs into the lower slopes of the Rincon Mountains. One of the stops is at Javelina Rocks where the three of us enjoy climbing around the large boulders.

One small trail takes us under the wavy rock.

What's up there??
Multi-layered views from the top.
Teddy Bear Cholla tucked among the rocks.

The lone "crested" saquaro in this section of the park.
The skies are cloudy, and we aren't ready to head home yet. Let's go back and spend more time among the formations on Catalina Highway (to Mt Lemmon)!

I figure I'll just look, since we were here a couple days ago, when I took a lot of photos. But the lighting is different, and I can't help but snap several more :-) It is also 20 degrees colder. We turn around when we find the gate to Lake Rose closed. I knew we'd be back, just didn't think it would be so soon!

If you've seen enough rocks, you should bail now.....

Massive fins wrap around the highway.

Line of robots.....
Jumbled formation with arch side-car.

Hodge Podge of rock

Clouds drop into the trees.
From the small rock wall across the river bed I can hear and smell the water at Seven Cataracts. I forget to take a pic from a distance, but I find three of the seven with the zoom.

Number two.

Number three.
Gay and Joe and Sue and Dave join us for happy hour on a much cooler evening. I don't think full-timers can ever run out of things to talk and laugh about - I always so enjoy these gatherings!

Tuesday is our last day in Tucson, and it's time to get the Jeeps out in the dirt. The others have appointments in town, but Dave and Sue are with us as we head up Redington Pass. The dirt road is well maintained for the first few miles, then rocks and ruts make it more interesting. The mountains are beautiful so going slow is a pleasure. We make several stops to enjoy the views and take photos.

Is that a crested :-(
The initial climb gives us expansive views of the valley below.

Dave takes in the view from an outcropping. The feathery skies add another layer.
Sue looks for the water we can hear but not see.
Subtle colors.
More rocks! Sorry :-)
We're looking for Josephine Tank for our lunch stop, but there's a closed gate when we find the entrance. Small stickers tell us Jeeps aren't welcome. Instead we turn back to Race Track Tank. I put Piper in 4-wheel-drive.

Crawling over large rocks, through mud and small pools of water, and over deep crevices get us to a creek bed where we stop for lunch. Although I'm hesitant at first, it's so much fun!

How 'bout here?

View with a lunch :-)
Comfy waterside seating. (thanks Sue)
The map looks like the tank is not much further so after lunch we continue on. I'm not a fan of the "feels like two wheels are off the ground", but Piper pulls around the one iffy spot and just over a small hill we find the pretty little tank.

Race Track Tank

The girls walk along the tank.
Discussing the return route while the humans wander around on foot.
The final puddle jump.
A single dark cloud moves overhead and light sprinkles follow us half way down the mountain. Nothing else smells like rain in the desert :-)))

It's a wonderful Jeep day with fun friends, and the perfect end to our time in Tucson. 

John and Pam and Dave and Sue and Lewis all stop by for quick good-bye-for-now's as the sun is going down. We know we'll see all of them down the road - love it!

We have an oil-change appointment first thing Wednesday morning, then on to one of our favorite Arizona stops.


  1. I've yet to go up Mt Lemmon or on Reddington's nice to know there are still things I haven't experienced after several long stays in Tucson!

    1. Funny how many of us hadn't been up there - but now I know it will be a must-do when we're in the area! Bummed I couldn't make the changes needed to stay until your arrival :-( We'll catch up down the road!

  2. Looks like another amazing day on the road!

  3. It's interesting how different the two parts of Saguaro NP are from each other. Looks like you had a fun time exploring the East. There is a huge triple crested saguaro off the Bridal Falls trail that I discovered last year. Even the crested saguaro guy I follow hadn't seen this beauty. Nice crested you spotted:) The Jeep ride looks like so much fun. Glad you four enjoyed the day with gorgeous desert scenery and water!! We will definitely see you down the road:) But it was great to catch you at several stops:)

    1. Bill keeps looking for one you've missed!! The one off the road in White Tanks is looking a little sad this year :-( The ranger gave us a map of the ones in "the area", I think there are 12? I'm sure you've seen them all :-)) Have a great time in Tucson, we'll be back with the kiddos by the time you head out.

  4. Surprising to hear you have seen few of the name sake cactus in the National park. Maybe they should just call it Cactus National Park for the variety. Beautiful golden crown. After living my life in the east with our eastern cottontail rabbits, every jackrabbit looks HUGE to me. And those ears. Oh my! The better to hear you with my dear. Love the rocks and your names for them. Can you get closer to those beautiful waterfalls on a trail? I’m really surprised to see them in the desert. They look more full than most of what I saw in the Finger Lakes last summer.

    1. There might be a trail along the bottom of that ravine, but the falls are super tall and steep with no access that I could see along side them. After the monsoons I'm sure they are really flowing, and much easier to see. Even having seen them all my life, that Jack was really big!

  5. Wow...on the photo of wrench rock, I see a person to the left with their arm around the person to the right, looking at them and telling them something.

  6. In all of our visits to Tucson, we've yet to go to Saguaro East. We need to remedy that! It looks gorgeous—love the rock formations and the wonderful variety of cacti. Looks like you had a fun day of exploring with Sue and Dave. "View with a lunch," hehe.

    1. It's a nice little loop with several trailheads. It's pretty special with all the bright green they have right now! Knew you'd "get it" :-)))))

  7. Love to see all these beautiful cacti, plus the very cool crested. Have only "heard" birds here too and no other wildlife. Plus more teasing up Mt Lemon with all those awesome rocks. There are times I wish I had a jeep to get to places like your lunch with a view. Nice variation.

    1. That was a sweet little creek for our lunch. We do love our Jeep!!

  8. Mt. Lemon is on the list...I can't believe we haven't taken that drive yet! Beautiful photos as always Jodee!

    Joe and I enjoyed meeting you, Bill, &Tessa and are looking forward to more visits...happy trails!

    1. It was so much more than I expected - definitely a drive worth doing (at least once!) So glad we finally got together and look forward to seeing you down the road :-))))

  9. We missed you by a few days :( I was hoping I can hop on to Mango Tango :)

    1. I'm so bummed we missed you guys!! You definitely have a seat in the Mango Tango when we cross paths again :-)